Carl Sandburg Teacher’s Guide: Carl Sandburg Poems, Lesson Plans, and Activities

Teacher’s Guide to Poems by Carl Sandburg

These Carl Sandburg Poems are ideal for teaching poetry to high school and middle school students. This list of poems by Carl Sandburg is accompanied by lesson ideas and links.

Lost in the Fog

I felt great. I had just taught an amazing lesson on analyzing poetry. Finally, my students could write intelligent analysis in their poetry essays.

My joy turned to horror as I read “this poem is cool” 8,114 times. I sniffled as students laughed at my grief. Seconds before peppering the class with spiral notebooks, I had an idea: maybe I should teach poems by Carl Sandburg. I put the notebooks away, called my bookie, and placed a bet on Chicago.

I had work to do. I had to create a list of Carl Sandburg poems with teaching ideas. Here’s what I came up with.

ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Teaching poems by Carl Sandburg covers the following ELA Common Core Standards.  This section is for your administrator, not your kids.  Kids need student-friendly objectives.

  1. RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  2. RL.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  3. L.9-10.5  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 
  4. L.9-10.5a  Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
  5. Common Core Writing Standard 1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  6. Common Core Writing Standard 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Poems by Carl Sandburg for High School

  1. “Fog” – Teach personification, or more accurately, felinification. Visual learners will find this poem as appealing as cat nip to a cat. Have a little fun with a fogcat art contest. Use white boards (coming soon) or individual slices of paper. Award prizes. Do cartwheels. Bring in a fog machine. Show the 1986 playoff game between Chicago and Philadelphia.
  2. “Chicago” – Sandburg loves personification. He also loves Chicago. Instruct students to imitate the first five lines of this poem to describe their own city or school. Use this identifying figurative language in poetry lesson plan to delve into Sandburg’s artful comparisons.
  3. “Bones” – This Shakespearelike treatment of death even contains an allusion to Hamlet. Normal human beings consider it morbid. Teenagers will think it cool. Images of the bottom of the sea populate the last 5 lines. Instruct students to think of a strange place and use this imagery lesson plan to have them write about it.
  4. “Death Snips Proud Men” – Sandburg personifies death in this unusual look at every one’s eventual fate.
  5. “Government” – It’s safe to say that Sandburg is a proponent of limited government. Instruct students to write an imitation poem with their description of government. You may wish to review important political documents–The Declaration of Independence, Magna Carta, U.S. Bill of Rights, and other documents that call for limited government.

Teaching the Common Core Standards by Teaching Poetry Masters

Just because someone came up with a fancy set of standards doesn’t mean you can’t teach your favorite poets.

  1. Teaching the Poems of Emily Dickinson
  2. Teaching the Poems of Langston Hughes
  3. Teaching the Poems of Walt Whitman
  4. Teaching the Poems of Shel Silverstein
  5. Teaching the Poems of Carl Sandburg
  6. Teaching the Poems of Robert Frost
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